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  • Live at the Tokyo Dome – Van Halen is Back, with a New Live Album!

    Tokyo Dome in Concert is Van Halen's second live album, and the first with vocalist David Lee Roth. It was released in March 2015.
    Tokyo Dome in Concert is Van Halen’s second live album, and the first with vocalist David Lee Roth. It was released in March 2015.

     

     

    Prior to this 2015 release, Van Halen had never released a live album with David Lee Roth on vocals. Take a second to let that sink in.

    Van Halen ranks amongst the most iconic classic hard rock bands of all time. Their high energy stage shows from the classic 1978-1984 period are the stuff of legend, and helped them to build up a worldwide fanbase that remains to this day. The “Dave vs. Sammy” debates are never going to end, and while both of them certainly have their merits, the “classic period” of the band is completely and totally unrivaled in terms of musical prowess and stage chemistry. We all know how many little boys wanted to grow up to be Eddie Van Halen, and how many of today’s top guitar heroes cite him as an influence.

    Van Halen reunited with David Lee Roth a few years back, releasing the new studio album, A Different Kind of Truth, in 2012. Despite skepticism with the pre-release single, this fan found the effort to be a one all around. Recently, the band announced they would be releasing a live album of a Japanese concert that was recently recorded. The current lineup of the band features David Lee Roth, Eddie and Alex Van Halen, and Eddie’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen, on bass; three quarters of the classic lineup from 1978-1984. From the classic era, only bassist Michael Anthony is absent, though Wolfgang has proven himself to be no slouch, and certainly worthy of keeping the Van Halen name alive!

    So, how does this fan feel about Van Halen finally deciding, at long last, to release a live album with Roth on vocals? Personally (and other fans will agree), I would have preferred to see a vintage live album from the band’s classic 1978-1984 period. Some of the reactions towards preliminary released clips from this live release had mixed reactions from fans and critics alike, but that was not going to stop this fan from giving the album a shot, and seeing how well the Van Halen boys hold up on a live stage in this day and age. Likewise, given that the only Van Halen album available for the past two decades has been a 90s record with Sammy Hagar on vocals, we need to have SOME kind of a live release with Roth at the helm.

    After giving it a few listens, I am pleased to report that, for the most part, Van Halen does not disappoint on this new live release. Despite his health problems in the past, Eddie Van Halen is still shredding like no one else; he gets plenty of chances to stand out here and do this thing. David Lee Roth is his always charismatic self, fraternizing with the Japanese audience and loving every minute of it. It is not a perfect live album by any means, but the good here definitely outweighs the band.

    I will get the bad news out of the way first – the first two tracks on this release are terrible. These takes of “Unchained” and “Runnin’ with the Devil” sound like Roth is either drunk or disinterested in the music, or possibly any mixture of the two. A few other moments like this surface on the release, but fortunately they are rare after the first two cuts. Roth also has a little TOO much fun interacting with the audience at some points on the release, which does occasionally detract from the music. Aside from these few hiccups, though, the release is actually pretty solid overall.

    The setlist on this live release combines songs from the band’s classic six 1978-1984 studio releases with tracks from the A Different Kind of Truth album that came out in 2012 (so NO, you do not get to hear Roth trying his hand at singing songs from the Hagar or Cherone eras or anything like that). The setlist is surprisingly well balanced, with just the right amount of “new” songs, and nearly all of the “classics” getting played.

    Many of the songs become extended jams in the live setting, including “Eruption,” Eddie’s classic guitar instrumental that has influenced generation after generation, and remains one of the classic rock world’s definitive instrumental tracks. Long time Van Halen fans should enjoy what they hear here; even with two discs worth of material, this concert never manages to feel excessive. I cannot say that this is going to end up on the list of all-time great live albums, but for what it is, it is a very solid release.

    It is great to see Van Halen back in action on a live stage, and despite a few minor flaws here and there, this stands as a terrific live release from the modern incarnation of one of classic hard rock’s greatest bands. Van Halen’s Tokyo Dome concert comes recommended for fans of the group.

     



  • Ragdoll Returns To The USA In 2015 With A Tour And A Stop At Rocklahoma

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    FOUR!!!!   Yes, for the fourth year in a row, the Australian trio, Ragdoll, have announced their return to Rocklahoma Festival in Pryor, Oklahoma.   Leon Todd, Ryan Rafferty and Cam Barrett  will share the stage alongside Linkin Park, Tesla, Godsmack, Slayer and many more across the Memorial Day Weekend for ‘Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of Rock’.

    The 2015 tour kicks off with a pre party at the festival.  From Oklahoma, the four state tour of nine shows will take them into Texas, Nevada and California.  Claiming new ground and new fans along the way, Ragdoll will return to Vamp’d in Las Vegas for direct support of Count’s 77.  Vamp’d will host an amazing night for “Imagine Charity”, an annual fund raising event for children’s music education.  This year’s tour will end at the renowned Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood, which will be a welcomed return for Ragdoll to the Whisky stage.

     

    RAGDOLL will be at Vamp'd in May- DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!
    RAGDOLL will be at Vamp’d in May- DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW!

     

    Guitarist Leon Todd; “Another great tour ahead America!  We have a new single out and new material we are ready to share as well as new shirts.”  Last year’s tour brought some crazy merchandise and fans are ready to see what all Ragdoll will bring to the States this year.  Preparing to come from the land down under, there is no better way to do so than opening for legendary Uriah Heep this past week at The Astor Theatre in Perth.  Ragdoll farewell their home crowd in Perth, Western Australia, with a tour fundraiser show April 18 at The Civic Hotel.

     

    US Tour Dates:

     

    May 21st – Rocklahoma Pre Party – Pryor, OK
    May 22nd – Rocklahoma – Pryor, OK
    May 25th – The Shrine – Tulsa, OK
    May 26th – TBC
    May 27th – Hard Rock Nights Showcase – The Boiler Room – Dallas, TX
    May 28th – Acadia – Houston, TX
    May 29th – The Rail Club – Fort Worth, TX
    May 30th – Vamp’d – Las Vegas, NV
    May 31st – Whisky A Go Go – Hollywood, CA

     

    Ragdoll will be at Rocklahoma at the end of May
    Ragdoll will be at Rocklahoma at the end of May

     

    Ragdoll cannot be labeled with any genre type as their entire mission on and off the stage is to bring new life into the music they love.  This is reflected in their release of the compilation CD “Ragdoll Rewound” which brings together Ragdoll’s first two EP’s, “Ragdoll Rock” and the critically acclaimed “Here Today”.  Mix in hard rock, classic rock and twist it with progressive and you have the Ragdoll sound and their stage presence is like none other.

     

     

     

     

     
    For more information, follow Ragdoll online:

    www.facebook.com/ragdollrock

    www.ragdollrock.com

    www.instagram.com/ragdoll_rock

    www.twitter.com/ragdoll_rock

    www.youtube.com/MrRagdollRock

     

     



  • Deadstar Assembly- Blame It On The Devil In Stores Now!

    Deadstar Assembly's New Release Blame It On The Devil
    Deadstar Assembly’s New Release Blame It On The Devil

     

    The first thing I’m going to mention is the fact that I hate that in 13 years this band is only releasing their 4th album and it usually takes 4-5 years between albums. I’m sure there’s a big number of factors behind that, I’m just complaining because I like this band a lot and want to hear music more often :)

    Oh, and come play Las Vegas damn it!

    Taking Orgy, Rob Zombie, and Skinny Puppy… I think you’ll find their sound somewhere in there. I know a lot of people don’t know who this band is, so I have to make sure you leave this review having an idea, as well as wanting to give them a listen. There’s a lot of melody within their heavy grooving electronic sound. Sorta poppy but in all the right ways.

    Unfortunately, Deadstar Assembly probably missed the popularity boat by being a few years too late, which sucks because I definitely think they’re one of the best modern industrial metal bands, along with 9Electric (tour, hint hint hint).

    So onto the album.

    They do what they do very well and eventhough you can always hear their influences pretty blatantly, they do have “their sound”. This newest release, Blame it on the Devil, is no exception. I think they continue to hone their craft in the long breaks between releases, which usually results in them not having any bad songs.

    But I have to pick some favorites; So first, I’m going to start with Amulet. I love the extra goth-y synth and the build into the double bass riff which shows up as a sorta bridge in the verses and the choruses. This song would describe their overall sound VERY well. As I mentioned earlier, the melodic heavy groove. I see this as a live staple.

    Will Not Die is another song I think would be a good one live. Full of sing a long lyrics and fist raising plus the straight forward beat to bang your head to.

     

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    Baptized in Fire threw me off because I thought it was going to be a very fast thrash song (Ministry style) but then the beat came in real slow and hard hitting. It still turned out to be fairly aggressive in the verses, just not the way I envisioned. The chorus gets really melodic almost in a Killswitch Engage kinda way. Ironically, there’s a breakdown in this song as well, complete with solos behind it, before leading back into the final chorus, and then again another breakdown to end the song off in a blaze of glory.

    Dirtier Than Sin… how can you ALMOST compare Deadstar Assembly to Iron Maiden? Well. It became possible with the keyboard and guitar harmony in the chorus. I can even hear the crowd “ohhh whoooaaa whoooaaaa” in my head. During the verses however, it’s straight headbanging. There’s also a breakdown in this song in the middle which would be fun for pit activity.

    Adorned in Thorns just sounds like In Flames. It’s straight up Gothenburg Industrial. It’s true! I seriously mean it. Imagine Anders Frieden’s vocals on this song. It could easily fit on the Soundtrack to Your Escape album. Especially the thrash section with the solo. It’s SO Gothenburg.

    Again, there’s certainly no bad songs on this album. It’s all catchy and worth listening to. If this is your start to listening to this band, that’s perfectly acceptable. I hope it opens your ears to a new band to love. Just make sure to listen to the first 3 albums too. You’ll notice the growth. I think 2010’s Coat of Arms is still my favorite, but it’s ALL good :)

    Not that there’s a ton of competition for the reigns of industrial metal anymore; Deadstar Assembly has deservedly worked their way to the top of the elite.

    Oh, and just a reminder… come to Las Vegas.



  • Nothin’ But Trouble – The Forgotten, Underrated Sophomore Effort from John Sykes and Blue Murder!

    Nothin' But Trouble is the second and final studio album from Blue Murder, released in 1993. John Sykes was the only band member remaining from the band's legendary 1989 debut.
    Nothin’ But Trouble is the second and final studio album from Blue Murder, released in 1993. John Sykes was the only band member remaining from the band’s legendary 1989 debut.

     

     

    Blue Murder was a supergroup that took the world by storm in 1989. Following his exile from Whitesnake, all eyes were on guitar virtuoso John Sykes, whose previous credits also included work with Thin Lizzy and the Tygers of Pan Tang. People were eager to hear what Sykes would end up doing next, and he proved it in a big way, uniting with bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm) and drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, King Kobra) to form the supergroup Blue Murder. Sykes handled vocal duties in the new group at the behest of music industry legend John Kalodner. Their debut album was a phenomenal release featuring classic after classic; it was every bit as much the equal of anything any of these musicians recorded in their prior bands. Many have regarded Blue Murder as a one album wonder…. but they DID have a sophomore release that time forgot.

    Joining the band in the places of Franklin and Appice were bassist Marco Mendoza (later of Whitesnake and Lynch Mob) and drummer Tommy O’Steen, although Franklin and Appice still appear on the majority of the tracks on this second record. The group also hired a standalone vocalist/backing vocalist in the form of Baton Rouge singer Kelly Keeling, however John Sykes ended up overdubbing the majority of Keeling’s lead vocal work for the band’s sophomore album, Nothin’ But Trouble. Thus, on the final album, only one track has Keeling’s lead vocals, while the other tracks only feature his backing vocals. Nothin’ But Trouble would end up being Blue Murder’s second and final studio release; the only other release to have the Blue Murder name was a live album that was released in 1994, although O’Steen and Mendoza would play on Sykes’ follow-up solo record, Out of My Tree.

    The first album from Blue Murder easily ranks amongst my favorite of all time; the trio created a classic for the ages and then some. It was something totally unique, yet did not betray the sounds of the artists’ older bands either, making it something that was truly the best of both worlds. Four years later, it is not likely anyone knew that they would ever get another Blue Murder album after the changes in the music industry that brought about the outbreak of grunge and alternative rock. And yet, Blue Murder DID release a second album! It this another classic for the ages, or is it a lost relic that may as well have remained lost?

    All right, the bad news first; this release is not as good as the first Blue Murder album. Fortunately, that is about the only negative thing that I have to say about Nothin’ But Trouble. This is a very solid album in its own right, which goes to show why John Sykes (who continues taking on vocal duties here) remains one of the most criminally underrated rock and metal guitarists in the world. O’Steen and Mendoza do a solid job filling gaps in the band on the tracks that they play on, though as was previously mentioned, Appice and Franklin are still largely present on ones recorded earlier; this was likely due to the lengthy time in between releases. You still get a diverse album that has no shortage of highlights. Time forgot this album, but that does not mean you have to!

    So, what exactly does Blue Murder’s sophomore album have to offer in terms of content? Quite a lot, actually! Opening cut “We All Fall Down” is one of the fastest, heaviest, and hardest rocking of all Blue Murder songs, making it a choice way to kick off this release. Gears shift completely on the second track, which is a cover of the old Small Faces standard, “Itchycoo Park.” This is a cover song that stays fairly true to the original, but also throws in a few hard rock touches as well, keeping things unique and interesting. Tracks like “Runaway” demonstrate that the band can walk that fine line between ballad and rocker within the same song beautifully. “I’m On Fire” is the one track on which Kelly Keeling’s lead vocal track remains intact, and this is a great bluesy hard rocker that would not have been out of place on one of his Baton Rouge records. Over the course of this release, you get tracks that are musically diverse, yet work well together too. Some work better than others and are more uniquely Blue Murder songs, but there is not a single weak cut on the whole CD. Closer “She Knows” finishes off the album in fine form, as a soft, acoustic-driven number that does a marvelous job wrapping things up.

    Nothin’ But Trouble is an excellent release, even it does not quite hit the same heights of the iconic debut record from 1989. John Sykes and company serve up another batch of excellent songs, and you will soon see further evidence of how talented and underrated a musician he is by listening to everything here. If you do not have any Blue Murder , get the debut album first. But once you have that, you will not want to hesitate to add the underrated-as-hell follow up to your collection. A gem that does not deserve to be forgotten!

     



  • Two Steps from the Move – Rock Candy Records Reissues this Landmark Album as a Two Disc Set!

    Two Steps from the Move, released originally in 1984, is Hanoi Rocks' most famous album and generally regarded as their best work. Rock Candy reissued the album in 2015.
    Two Steps from the Move, released originally in 1984, is Hanoi Rocks’ most famous album and generally regarded as their best work. Rock Candy reissued the album in 2015.

     

    Hanoi Rocks is one of the most criminally underrated bands of all time. Founded in Helsinki, Finland in 1979, the Michael Monroe-fronted group achieved minor success, but never got the chance to be full-on rock superstars (though Monroe has had a modestly successful solo career since then). After years of roughing it and struggling to stay afloat, it seemed like the band was finally about to “make it” in the music world, with growing concert crowds and curious fans all around the globe looking on.

    1984 saw the release of Two Steps from the Move, the band’s fourth studio album of original material. The record was produced by Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, KISS) and was by far their most popular record worldwide, featuring a plethora of hit songs and worldwide single releases that were continuing to catapult the band towards successes that now seemed like a certainty. Unfortunately, it was not long after the release of this now classic album that tragedies would  strike. Michael Monroe fractured his ankle, resulting the cancellation of many tour dates on the West Coast of the United States, where a growing fanbase was all the more eager to see and experience the band in concert. A greater tragedy occurred a few days later, when drummer Razzle was killed in a car accident, the car being driven by Motley Crue’s Vince Neil, in an inebriated state. Attempts to hire a new drummer and keep the band afloat failed, and before long at all, they were no more.

    While Hanoi Rocks seldom gets the publicity of many of the bands that were popular on the 80s glam rock scene, they were a massive influence on said bands, in terms of fashion and sound alike. Hanoi Rocks was a unique group with an unusual sound that drew its influences from multiple sources – punk rock, new wave, 70s glam, and just about everything in between. Even with numerous records behind them up to this point, the general consensus is that Two Steps from the Move remains the definitive studio record from the group. Rock Candy Records, who has reissued some of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time over the years, from legendary hit records to obscure, forgotten classics, has now taken it upon themselves to give this oft-forgotten classic the deluxe treatment.

    There are countless classic tracks on this album, and it is not hard at all to see why it has the classic reputation it does with so many fans and musicians alike. Every song on here is strong, and the album keeps your attention throughout; Hanoi Rocks was always good at maintaining a sound all their own, including many musical elements that were not always typical of the era. After all, these musicians were much more seasoned and experienced than a number of the so-called “peers” they have been lumped in with over the years. The record marks the culmination of everything musically they had been doing up to the time. Highlights include the now classic cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend” that kicks off the album, the punk-flavored rocker “High School”, the eerily melodic “Underwater World”, a remake of the band’s earlier ballad “Don’t You Ever Leave Me,” another terrific 80s-flavored ballad in the form of “Million Miles Away”, and other gems including the title cut and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” The cuts on the album are surprisingly diverse musically; you could envision these being played on anything from a punk radio station to one that specialized in 80s new wave/pop songs, yet they would not be out of place on a hard rock station either. Every Hanoi Rocks album is strong but this is the band’s absolute peak.

    One of the ongoing complaints I have had with Rock Candy’s otherwise fantastic reissues has been, in many cases, a lack of audio bonus material. Well, apparently this is a company that listens to their fans. Not only does this release contain bonus material; you get an entire disc’s worth of it! Hopefully this will be a sign of things to come from the company in the future. Disc One contains the complete classic album, while Disc Two is packed full of rarities. The majority of these are rare bonus tracks from singles that were released back in the day, while the latter four songs are actually pulled from a BBC Friday Rock Show Session, allowing you to hear the band playing in their absolute prime, a mere few months before Razzle’s tragic death. As with Rock Candy’s other reissues, you get a booklet packed with information about the band, rare photos, and other interesting pieces of information. I do not have an earlier CD to compare the audio quality with, but this release of the album sounds fantastic throughout.

    If you are a classic hard rock fan, there is a chance that you already own Two Steps from the Move on some other format, possibly an earlier CD release. And this may be the point where you are asking yourself, should I double dip? The answer is YES. This is, by far, the definitive release of this classic album, and an entire disc’s worth of rare material coupled with thorough liner notes and photos only add to the overall package. For any fan of classic hard rock or heavy metal, Rock Candy Records’ reissue of Two Steps from the Move is a must own.